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Ed DeLaney: A double loss—lost dignity and lost opportunity

IHDC in the News, Member Featured

Indianapolis Business Journal 

May 24, 2019 

I would suggest that, since I was first elected at the start of the Great Recession, we have lost two important things in our political life: We lost much of our sense of dignity and we have lost both public and private opportunities.

These failings are most clear in the context of Washington politics. President Trump is both beyond embarrassing and beyond being embarrassed. Yet Vice President Mike Pence travels the country praising Trump’s moral leadership. Just whose soul is being saved at those prayer breakfasts where Pence holds Trump’s hand?

As to opportunity, the administration in Washington has done nothing on student debt, on infrastructure or on immigration. But let us look to our own Indiana affairs.

Decency

The greatest sin of the Republican establishment in our state is its silent embrace of Trump. Surely they know what he is. But this silence and lack of decency is affecting Indiana at a more local level. Let’s look at two examples.

1. Curtis Hill
The Republican leadership has blatantly ignored Attorney General Curtis Hill and his physical mishandling of women. At first blush, our governor and speaker called for Hill’s resignation. But they walked back that idea. I and other legislators, all Democrats, sought to hold Hill to account for his treatment of a legislator and of legislative staff. But the House Republican leadership will not impeach or censure him. Their inaction literally precludes open debate. Do they stand ready to use next year’s convention of the Grand Old Party to renominate him?

2. The gambling industry
Democrats brought gambling to Indiana and limited its influence in the halls of government. We played it straight. What do we see now? We have a governor who takes jet rides from a gambling leader and contributions from a national Republican group supported by gambling interests. The speaker found himself precluded from voting on gambling. There is no need to get close to the gambling industry.

Opportunity under Holcomb

The governor could lead Indiana toward the future. He could roll back tuition by increasing state funding for our public universities. He could push for modern infrastructure like light rail instead of abandoning rail. He could do more for public education. How much money will we take from public schools while we denigrate and over-regulate them? Will he push for a real statewide preschool program?

How long will the governor and the supermajority keep cigarette taxes low while our public health sinks to the bottom of the charts? And remember these lost opportunities are coming in a time of prosperity. What is the parable about the talents?

The challenge for Hoosier Democrats

So how do Hoosier Democrats win? First, we must be the party of decency and opportunity. We must provide a contrast and we must call the Republicans out. We must stand up on the issues.

We also need to reach out to the Trump supporters who have been conned. Have we told our farmers why crop prices are low? Could it be Trump’s tariffs? Have we told teachers who vote Republican that they need to know who really supports public schools? Have we told young parents that we can help deal with the high cost of preschool? Have we noticed that Republican legislators took mental health funding from our schools?

Decency and opportunity still matter. With effort, we can bring these things back to Indiana.•

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DeLaney, an Indianapolis attorney, is a Democrat representing the 86th District in the Indiana House of Representatives. Send comments to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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